The second year delay

Published 5:12 pm Tuesday, March 5, 2019

The first time someone said it to me, I shook my head in disbelief and wondered how in the world this could possibly be true. 

They said, “In terms of grieving, the second year is often harder than the first.” 

As a fledgling bereavement counselor back then, this made absolutely no sense to me because I just couldn’t understand how a year filled with raw emotion and pain could possibly be followed by a year filled with even more raw emotions and pain.

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Once I came to this realization, the hard part became gathering up the courage to say this aloud to those who were grieving.  Sitting in front of me, I witnessed faces filled with anguish and I thought to myself, “How can I possibly even broach this topic and let them know that there are harder times coming?” But, with considerable practice, I have been able to have these discussions and just like me when I first heard this concept, people responded with shock and disbelief. And then, it was almost as if I was witnessing an emotional collapse time after time again as people came to the realization that the most difficult part about grieving wasn’t over and that in a way, it was just barely beginning.

How can this be? These initial confrontations with loss can create anxiety and feelings of trepidation, confusion, disillusionment as well as fear. 

The anticipation of the “unknown” plays tricks on our minds and punches hard at our hearts, leaving us exhausted and broken from having encountered one grief event after the other.  However, as we are moving through our grief journey, we start to recognize that we are progressing forward, slowly but surely, and we come to understand that we are actually “surviving.” Perhaps that is why year two seems to be more difficult because we have used every bit of our energy to “just make it through” that first year. 

We become so focused on time and putting one step after the other, that small accomplishments are met with tremendous relief about our progress. 

But then, as year one (plus one day) arrives, it is often met with repressed feelings buried so deep that when they emerge to the surface, it feels as though we are experiencing the loss all over again. 

In reality, this is a different kind of grief in that these feelings have always been there, but our minds have protected us by giving us only those raw expressions of pain little bits at a time. 

By slowly working our way through our grief, we are given strength to handle more than we ever thought was possible, and that in itself offers hope and relief toward healing.